By Carey Codd

FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – When wipes, paper towels and other non-flushable items get introduced into a sewer system it creates a yucky, stinky mess that can clog the system, create overflows and backups and even shut the system down temporarily.

That’s what Fort Lauderdale City Manager Chris Lagerbloom says is happening in his city on a regular basis.

“We deal with these clogs on a daily basis at this point, “Lagerbloom told CBS 4 News.

Lagerbloom said these clogs have become more frequent over the past month and one of the reasons why, he believes, is due to the coronavirus pandemic. He believes a lack of toilet paper on store shelves is causing some to put wipes, paper towels and other items into their toilets. He’s hopeful we’ll soon see more toilet paper in stores and alleviate some of these problems.

“As soon as that supply can some back, hopefully we’ll start to see the reduction and we won’t see as many clogs as we’re seeing right now,” Lagerbloom said.

The sewer overflow prevention flyer from the city. (Source: City of Fort Lauderdale)

The city put out a reminder to residents this week, saying not to flush baby wipes, wet wipes or even wipes that claim to be flushable. “They are not,” the city’s illustration warns. Other items to avoid are paper towels and diapers.

“What we’d really like to see in our sewer system is toilet paper,” Lagerbloom said. “And if we can boil it down to that, that’s what should be flushed.”

Lagerbloom said each time one of these clogs occurs they have to shut down the system, remove the clog, clean the machinery and turn the system back on again.

If any city knows about the struggles of sewer system problems, it’s Fort Lauderdale. For months they’ve dealt with a series of sewer main breaks throughout the city, flooding streets and neighborhood with raw sewage and sending tons of it into waterways. Lagerbloom says they want to avoid those problems by reducing or eliminating pressure on the system from clogs and overflows.

“Anytime we can keep that stress and that pressure down, we’re in a better spot,” he said.

The city is continuing work on several sewer projects during the shutdown. Lagerbloom said fewer cars and people on the roads is making it a bit easier to get projects done.

“We need to improve the infrastructure and now that we have a little bit of downtime, now is the time to get as much done as we can,” he said.

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